Irrefutable evidenceA key factor in addressing the Cheonan incident is China. At the South Korea-China-Japan foreign ministers’ meeting in Gyeongju this past weekend, China stressed that a scientific and objective investigation is important to solving the tragedy, while agreeing to the basic principle of close communication and consultation. Such rhetoric from China is in line with the Chinese government’s earlier position regarding the Cheonan case, in which a South Korean Navy ship mysteriously sunk near the border with North Korea.
However, unless we persuade China to accept the results of the joint military and civilian investigation, it will be difficult for our “Cheonan diplomacy” to bear fruit. Therefore, the government should do its best to convince China through a strict and transparent investigation purely based on science and objectivity.
In the meeting in Gyeongju, South Korean officials explained the proceedings of the investigation, and China was said to have listened calmly. Regardless, it would be fair to say that it is difficult to get a nod from China with the investigation results accumulated so far, as there has been no change in the government’s position on the incident.
In sharp contrast with China, the United States already regards the sinking of the Cheonan warship as “an attack against our ally.” The U.S. Senate also adopted a unanimous resolution related to the sinking. Though falling short of specifying who’s responsible for the incident, the Senate seems to have reached an internal conclusion that North Korea was behind the sinking. We believe that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s potential visit to Seoul next week would also reflect such an atmosphere in the U.S.
Considering the appearance of the ship’s sinking, the material evidence accumulated so far and the circumstantial evidence at the time of explosion, the joint investigation team seems to attribute the sinking to an “explosion by a torpedo attack.” Still, the question is who did it.
We hope the investigation team will refrain from using blurry expressions - such as “North Korea is likely to be responsible for the sinking” or “We have no other choice but to assume that the North was behind the incident” - when it announces the results of its month-long investigation on Thursday.
If the North turns out to be the culprit, the claim should be strongly supported by solid and irrefutable evidence. If China still doesn’t accept the investigation results, we can blame China for being irresponsible. The government would do well to remember that its announcement may invite backlash at home and abroad if it is tainted with defects.